Monthly Archives: January 2012

CNN reports on Philadelphia’s local currency

I helped RHD set up their Equal Dollars currency back in the late 90′s. Here is a recent report about it from CNN. Sorry about the annoying commercial at the beginning.–t.h.g.

How I buy groceries without cash – Video – Personal Finance.

The 100% solution: non-violent organizing for the common good

What is it that enables less than 1 percent of the population to control, dominate, and exploit the rest of us? Some will say it’s ignorance and fear, other will say it’s laziness and irresponsibility. There is probably just enough truth in all of that to enable the 1 percent to justify their actions.   The fundamental question remains: Are the people capable of self-government?

I think we are, so now it comes down to deciding the best strategies for enabling the necessary massive power shift.

A recent article by George Lakey provides some food for thought. It tells the inspiring story about  How Swedes and Norwegians broke the power of the ‘1 percent’

Here’s the bottom line:

Although Norwegians may not tell you about this the first time you meet them, the fact remains that their society’s high level of freedom and broadly-shared prosperity began when workers and farmers, along with middle class allies, waged a nonviolent struggle that empowered the people to govern for the common good.

Now read the rest of the story: How Swedes and Norwegians broke the power of the ‘1 percent’.

It may not be desirable or even possible for us to apply the precise tactics of 20th century Scandinavia, but the basic approach remains valid: non-violence, social solidarity, and organization in pursuit of the common good.

Obama Flushes American Dream in SoU Speech

I don’t take seriously the words of politicians, nor do I pay much attention to the quadrennial presidential election charade. The outcome is decided well in advance of the presidential primaries by the power that be. The mainstream media coverage becomes almost laughable when you notice how the networks contort themselves to make an establishment puppet look like a viable candidate while ignoring anyone who might represent popular interests and real change. That is ably illustrated by this video:

And this article by Patrick Martin helps us to read between the lines of Obama’s speech and understand the dismal state of American government. It is clear that whomever occupies the White House next term, and whichever party controls Congress, WE THE PEOPLE will get no help from Washington. In fact, as David Stockman told us about a year ago, the federal government has become “a fountain of harm.” It is up to WE THE PEOPLE to rebuild American democracy and take back control over our lives, working from our communities on up.–t.h.g.

Obama’s State of the Union address: War and wage-cutting

By Patrick Martin, 25 January 2012

The State of the Union Speech delivered by Barack Obama Tuesday night was memorable only as a further milestone in the decay of American democracy.

While billed in advance by the White House and media pundits as a “populist appeal” by the Democratic president, effectively kicking off his reelection campaign, there was virtually nothing in the speech that even acknowledged the acute social crisis in America, let alone offering any solution.

The annual presidential addresses to a joint session of Congress have taken on an increasingly empty and ritualistic character—the same empty phrases, the same perfunctory ovations, the same gimmick of individuals placed in the First Lady’s box to serve as cameos, the laundry list of proposals, either insignificant or overtly reactionary, the sickening appeals to national unity and militarism.

Four years after the official onset of recession, three years after the biggest financial collapse since the Great Depression, the US economy remains mired in slump and the world economy is rapidly approaching a new cataclysm. Yet neither Obama nor his Republican opponents can acknowledge the overriding fact being experienced by hundreds of millions of working people: the desperate crisis of the capitalist system.

The Wall Street crash of 2008 plunged the country into a social crisis: mass unemployment, increasing poverty, the collapse of local and state government budgets, the shutdown of public services, the spread of hunger and homelessness. Yet for both Obama and the Republicans, the only solution proposed is to increase the profits of American corporations at the expense of the working class. Every so-called “job-creation” measure proposed by Obama was, in reality, a tax break or government subsidy for corporate America.

Obama’s speech not only glossed over the causes and consequences of the 2008 collapse, but entirely avoided any mention of the mushrooming financial crisis in Europe, which threatens to break up the euro zone, with incalculable consequences for the US and world economy.

The axis of Obama’s speech was his invocation of the auto bailout as the greatest vindication of his economic policies. “This blueprint begins with American manufacturing,” he said. “On the day I took office, our auto industry was on the verge of collapse… In exchange for help, we demanded responsibility. We got workers and automakers to settle their differences.”

By “responsibility” Obama was referring to the White House demand that auto workers take a 50 percent pay cut, along with the destruction of tens of thousands of jobs, major cuts in pension and health benefits for retired workers, and a ban on strike action, cementing the role of the United Auto Workers union as the company police force inside the plants.

While auto workers paid the price, the auto bosses reaped the profits. “Today, General Motors is back on top as the world’s number one automaker,” Obama boasted, “the American auto industry is back.”

He continued with the following extraordinary words: “What’s happening in Detroit can happen in other industries. It can happen in Cleveland and Pittsburgh and Raleigh.” This statement should be taken as a threat to the jobs, living standards and democratic rights of every worker in the United States.

While Obama invokes the success of “Detroit,” the city is bankrupt, with poverty and unemployment over 50 percent, widespread foreclosures and utility shutoffs, and a city government committed to scrapping entire neighborhoods and returning large sections of the former manufacturing capital of America to farmland.

The state government is contemplating the installation of an emergency manager who would suspend local government, rip up union contracts and rule by decree. Detroit has become a synonym, not only in America but worldwide, for urban collapse and social misery. This is what Obama offers to workers in “Cleveland and Pittsburgh and Raleigh.”

Besides these remarks, there was much political boilerplate and ballast. The section of the speech described as “populist” in the corporate-controlled media amounted to a few paragraphs out of an address of more than one hour. Obama declared, “We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by. Or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.”

He made a brief reference to the 2008 financial crash, admitting that the banks were to blame, mainly for the purpose of excusing himself and his administration of responsibility. The president then announced that he had just ordered the attorney general—four years after the fact—to “expand our investigations into the abusive lending and packaging of risky mortgages that led to the housing crisis.” This election-year stunt will likely send no Wall Street CEOs to jail. It will fool only those who want to be fooled.

Obama emphasized that his social policies on education and health care were based firmly on the capitalist market and reiterated his commitment to further drastic cuts in social spending. He cited the deal he reached last summer with House Speaker John Boehner to slash funding for Medicare and Social Security in return for slightly higher taxes on the wealthy, which was derailed by opposition from the House Republican caucus.

Equally ominous and reactionary were the brief opening and longer closing sections of the State of the Union speech devoted to foreign policy. Obama began and ended the speech by invoking what he clearly regards as his trump card, the assassination of Osama bin Laden by a team of US Navy Seals.

Obama hailed “the courage, selflessness, and teamwork of America’s Armed Forces.” He continued: “At a time when too many of our institutions have let us down, they exceed all expectations… They focus on the mission at hand. They work together. Imagine what we could accomplish if we followed their example.”

The president repeatedly beat the drums for economic nationalism, focusing particularly on China as an alleged practitioner of predatory trade practices.

In the course of a long paean to American military strength and foreign policy “successes” like the overthrow and murder of Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi, Obama cited “the enduring power of our moral example.” Actually, under Obama even more than Bush, America is identified with a policy of global thuggery and murder, carried out by drones, death squads and hired assassins.

In his conclusion, Obama returned to his vision of a society run along military lines when he again invoked the raid that killed bin Laden. For Barack Obama, the cohesion of a team of trained assassins is the highest form of human solidarity.

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Banks too big to fail; bankers too powerful to jail.

According to the Associated Press, federal negotiators are close to concluding a deal with major banks that would essentially forgive them of crimes committed in connection with the mortgage crisis. You can read the story here, and a critique of the proposed settlement here: Obama Is on the Brink of a Settlement With the Big Banks—and Progressives Are Furious.

All together now….

In the midst of an economic downturn sharing and cooperation become even more important than usual. If I’m right, our present situation is more than a cyclical downturn, it is the beginning of a fundamental economic readjustment triggered by peak debt, peak oil, peak pollution, etc… The limits to growth have been reached and we will not grow our way out of this predicament.

It seems we are now entering the chrysalis stage of societal metamorphosis, which means that familiar structures on which we’ve been dependent are breaking down. This runs the gamut from money and banking to health care, food and energy systems, education, government and law, and even religion.

As we undertake the necessary community based restructuring, it is essential that we find ways to make sure that everyone’s basic needs are taken care of and that positive developmental projects get the support they need. Alongside the deployment of moneyless and bankless systems of reciprocal exchange, it is essential that we also enhance the structures of the gift economy. More than giving to the usual charities, this means doing what we can to satisfy the needs that we see all around us. Give or share what you have, it need not be money. Most of us have more stuff than we use, and much more than we need.

But wise use of our monetary resources is still important. I recently discovered a new website called givv.org that allows you to designate a fixed amount to donate every month, and to distribute it amongst any number of recipients that you name. You can thus give small amounts and avoid getting on mailing lists that inundate you with appeals for further donations. You can watch a three-minute video here.

If you missed it, you can consult my list of Financing Alternatives, which also includes some other creative ways of giving.

And be sure to read the story about Mali’s Gift Economy in Yes! magazine.

What if ? Judge Napolitano asks some penetrating questions

Judge Napolitano’s video clip is not about Ron Paul, it’s about America’s entire political predicament.

The important thing to remember is that there is no leader who can remedy the situation for us. It’s up to you and me. Find your own way to help make this a happier, more peaceful world.–t.h.g.

Coming soon: a world without money and banks.

Who in their right mind would be so bold as to predict the end of money and banking as we’ve known it (besides yours truly, that is)?

Well, how about the Governor of the Bank of England?

“There is no reason products and services could not be swapped directly by consumers and producers through a system of direct exchange – essentially a massive barter economy. All it requires is some commonly used unit of account and adequate computing power to make sure all transactions could be settled immediately. People would pay each other electronically, without the payment being routed through anything that we would currently recognize as a bank. Central banks in their present form would no longer exist – nor would money.”

– Mervyn King – Governor of the Bank of England

You see, even the insiders can see the writing on the wall.

Another observer who has been in the thick of cashless trading developments for decades is Bob Meyer, publisher and editor of Barter News. A while back, Bob wrote an article that gives some pertinent history of the “barter” industry and sketches his vision of how “Simple One-to-One Exchanges Will Give Way to Organized, Computerized, Multi-Lateral Barter.” I strongly recommend that people read it: THE ORIGINAL MEANING OF TRADE MEETS THE FUTURE IN BARTER

Taking Cashless Trade to a Higher Level

When I spoke at the IRTA convention in 2007, I pointed out that many people associated with the business of commercial “barter” had told me that the industry was at what might be called a “plateau of complacency.” That seems to remain the case today with trade exchange operators content to operate profitably on a small local scale instead of venturing to tap the enormous potential demand that exists for the cashless exchange of goods and services.

This is not merely an opportunity to increase profitability, but an opportunity to provide a much-needed service that is becoming more urgent every day. As conventional money and banking continue to malfunction, small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) find it increasingly difficult to provide the goods and services that their customers value and need. The inadequate liquidity provided to this sector of the economy by the government and banking establishment, and the misallocation of money to bank bailouts and wars, has caused the current economic depression.

Just like the WIR Economic Circle Cooperative during the Great Depression of the 1930s, the modern trade and barter exchanges are well positioned to ameliorate liquidity problems by providing, as they do, direct allocation of members’ credit to one another. But if they are to improve the value of their services, and if they are to have any significant impact on the economy as a whole, the trade exchange membership base must be greatly expanded. How to achieve that without taking inordinate risks or cutting into exchange revenues has been the knotty question that has blocked progress in that direction.

But now, entrepreneur and experienced trade exchange member, Sergio Lub, has come up with a great idea that provides a suitable answer for expanding the scale and scope of cashless trading, but trade exchange operators must be willing to embrace it. Just days ago, Sergio posted this idea on his blog under the title, Empowering Barter Members to Recruit Their Suppliers. You can click the link to read it there, but I’m including the full article below. Please read it, spread it far and wide, and invite discussion. Mutual credit clearing, the primary service that trade exchanges provide, is the highest level in the evolution of reciprocal exchange, one that makes conventional money obsolete. The world needs it now, and the modern trade and barter movement is best able to provide it.—t.h.g.

Empowering Barter Members to Recruit Their Suppliers

Sergio Lub, Saturday, December 17, 2011

Barter is older than money and is now experiencing a Renascence thanks to two factors: One is the increasing scarcity of money due to the global recession, the other is new software that increasingly allows people to earn and spend their barter credits as easily as they use PayPal. Our shopping carts at SergioLub.com and WearCopper.com, for example, accept barter as well as credit and debit cards for the payment of online orders.

Barter will grow even larger if it were to overcome the persistent problem members have when most of their suppliers do not belong to the same barter group as they do. Understandably, suppliers do not want to incur the time and expense of joining another system, while barter administrators need filled applications to check references, and the application fees to pay commissions to their recruiters.

This old Catch 22 problem will disappear once barter administrators allow their trusted members to make barter payment to their suppliers, even when they do not yet belong to the system.

We users will enter the needed data as we process the online transaction, so there is no typing work for the barter office. The new account does not need extensive credit checking since it is known and recommended by a trusted member. It also does not need an initial credit line since it starts by earning barter credits and therefore with a positive balance.

A common objection from new potential barter members is: “What if I cannot find where to use my Barter Credits?” I suggest to address this problem by allowing the inviting member to reassure the supplier somehow, for example by offering a “One Year Money Back Guarantee.”

So, instead of paying my printer cash at 30 days (and then asking for more time a month later because others are not paying me), my printer will be able to spend the trade credits right away. If my printer cannot find anywhere to spend them, then I will buy those credits with cash after a year. Even in the rare case that this happens I still would still enjoy extra free financing and my supplier gets a chance to play barter with no costs or risk.

An extra benefit of having members sponsor their suppliers is that our new members will deliver goods and services that we normally consume, thus reducing the present disproportion of luxury items and this should also help with the problem of having members “on reserve” because they cannot find where to spend their earned credits.

One last objection may come from the barter’s Road Reps that recruit new members for a fee, since for them, for barter administrators to allow members giving memberships for free, could be considered unfair competition.

The barter administrator should explain that the free memberships are gift certificates that members have traded for or have earned, for example one per year of membership. Furthermore, the barter administrator can gradually switch compensation for road reps to a percentage of the transaction fees, so their earnings become proportional to the volume of transactions their customer’s make. Doing this will give road reps the incentive to visit existing clients and help them become more knowledgeable and efficient in the barter economy.

As more businesses accept Barter Credits it does not take long to see a future in which we could choose to issue Barter Credits to all our vendors, to be used on a trial basis, during the time it takes for their bills to become due.

In the era of networking, tapping into our established relationships is the viral and sustainable way to go. Imagine what will happen when my suppliers will in turn earn the right to invite their suppliers, eventually closing my trading loops and making the use of money increasingly optional.

Writing this in December, with the spirit of the Holidays all around, it is quite easy to visualize barter group administrators acknowledging their senior members with free memberships to gift to their suppliers, and with a little effort I can see a few innovators empowering their barter members to recruit their suppliers year-round, thus helping unleash the huge potential of barter.

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